School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy


Kristy Motte


promise program, community college, transfer, retention, student success, free tuition


Counseling | Education


The purpose of this transcendental phenomenological study was to describe the experiences of students formally enrolled in a California community college promise program at Mountain View Community College, Lakeview Community College, Hillcrest Community College, and Ocean Valley Community College, each located in Southern California. The theoretical framework guiding this study was grounded in Astin’s theory of student involvement which provided a lens to analyze the experiences of promise students and their pursuit of bachelor’s degrees. The central research question under investigation was: What do promise program students previously enrolled at a California community college that have transferred to a four-year university describe as their experiences? Participants who transferred to a public California four-year university were selected using purposeful sampling. Data were collected through individual interviews, letter writing, and a focus group, and analyzed using Moustakas’s modification of the van Kaam method of analysis of phenomenological data. Four themes were revealed during the data analysis process including shaping academic self-perceptions, community college sentiments, community of support, and racing against time. A major finding of the study was that although participants faced innate stress attempting to transfer within a two-year period, all were able to accomplish their goals through perseverance and leveraging support from others.